I have the privilege each month of investing in other pastors. The concerns they share with me remind me of many things I’ve experienced over 34 years of pastoral ministry.
A common theme is how often critics attack pastors and their Churches. This has discouraged many good leaders who are giving themselves to help God’s people.
Nothing new or unexpected
Jesus was intensely attacked and maligned throughout his ministry. The apostles were repeatedly criticized. Don’t be shocked by opposition to God’s work. Expect it! There’s a reason why we are told to “be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might. Put on the full armor of God…” (Ephesians 6:10-11).
Watch out for such people
We’re not talking about humble people who genuinely desire positive solutions to actual challenges in a Church. We should be grateful for people who offer genuine feedback and truly have the good of God’s work in their hearts.
We’re talking about those who “causing divisions and offenses among you.” We are commanded to “watch out for” these people and to “turn away from them” lest they “deceive the hearts of the unsuspecting” (Romans 16:17-18).
They are antagonistic individuals who feed on the attention they get from feigning “concern” about the good of the Church or about certain leaders. These people enjoy “taking on the leaders” or appearing wiser than the leaders.
Stinging rebuke for puffed up people
These kind of people attacked the apostle Paul to cause doubts about his integrity and diminish his influence. He rebuked and exposed them with stinging spiritual sarcasm, “You are already filled, you have already become rich, you have become kings without us; and indeed, I wish that you had become kings so that we also might reign with you….We are fools for Christ’s sake, but you are prudent in Christ; we are weak, but you are strong; you are distinguished, but we are without honor” (I Corinthians 4:8,10)
Sober words of warning
Consider these sober words to Church members who are behaving this way: “If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy that person; for God’s temple is sacred, and you together are that temple” (I Corinthians 3:17).
Wherever God’s work is flourishing, critics will be there to attack it — often from within the Church. These people feed on negativity and display a narcissistic need to find things wrong with God’s work and His servants. But I’ve repeatedly witnessed the ways God protects His work and servants.
It sometimes seems like God waits until the hearts of the critics are entrenched before He stands against them – destroying them for trying to destroy His work. Scripture emphasizes God’s patience, but also warns against taking it lightly (Romans 2:1-5; II Peter 3:9; Revelation 2:21).
Many of these people deceive themselves into thinking they’re defending righteous causes and they love to take others with them. They use deceitful tactics to alienate people from each other — especially from their pastors. They take strange pleasure in dividing people to draw a following for themselves or make themselves look better.
They use subtle accusations, ask questions with raised eyebrows, or resort to deceitful innuendo. They draw attention to the faults of others by subtlety joking about perceived weaknesses in them.
These are usually insecure people who look for ways to bring attention to the faults of others to make themselves look better. The will even lie (or, lightly shade the truth) to advance their cause or to make themselves look better. They tend to view leadership as competition for recognition.
Avoid the people Jude described as “grumblers and faultfinders” (Jude 16), especially those who “who cause divisions among you” (Romans 16:17) and promote “accusations against an elder” (I Timothy 4:19).
The apostle Paul ordered an early congregation to, “Do all things without complaining and arguing” (Philippians 2:14). To another he wrote, “Make every effort to keep the unity of the spirit through the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4:3).
- “Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud,… Do not be conceited (Romans 12:16).
- “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone (Romans 12:18).
- “It is to a man’s honor to avoid strife, but every fool is quick to quarrel (Proverbs 20:3).
- “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves” (Philippians 2:3).
Be especially careful in your criticisms to make sure you are not promoting your own agenda and actually standing against God’s work and servants.
God will dismantle you or take you apart if you try to destroy His work and servants.